Get to know an opponent: Akron

The Bulls take on the Zips in Akron Saturday

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Coming off their bye week, the Bulls will travel to InfoCision Stadium in Akron, OH to take on the University of Akron Saturday.

The Zips are 0-6 following a 26-3 loss to Kent State. In his first season as head coach, former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Tom Arth has struggled to get much out of his offense, which has produced just 86 points.

Akron went 0-4 in non-conference play, with losses to Illinois, UAB, Troy and UMass. The Zips were projected to finish fifth in the East Division, according to the 2019 Mid-American Conference Football Media Preseason Poll.

Buffalo is 2-4 entering the Akron game, after wins over Robert Morris and Temple and losses to Penn State, Liberty, Miami (OH) and Ohio. The Bulls have struggled on offense, where they average 368.5 yards per game, ranking No. 91 in Division 1-A.

“We for sure have the talent, we just need to be more consistent,” said offensive lineman Alain Schaerer.

Here’s what to expect when the Bulls take on the Zips Saturday afternoon:

COACH: Tom Arth, 0-6, first season at Akron

LOOKING BACK

The Zips were one of just five teams to average less than 100 yards per game rushing last season. In his final season at Akron, Van Edwards Jr. accounted for 558 yards and three rushing touchdowns. He and then-freshman Keyondre White shared the bulk of the carries, but neither eclipsed 4.0 average yards-per-carry.

Quarterback Kato Nelson completed 52% of his passes for 2,329 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He threw for 115 yards and an interception in a 24-6 loss to Buffalo last October. The Zips failed to score a touchdown that night.

The Zips were shut out on offense in the 2018 MAC Postseason Awards. Wide receivers A.J. Coney and Kwadarrius Smith finished the 2017 season with a combined 1,277 receiving yards, and tight end Kobie Booker had eight catches for 126 yards and four touchdowns.

On the other side of the ball, cornerback Alvin Davis Jr. was named first-team All-MAC in 2018 after recording 75 total tackles and four interceptions, including two for touchdowns. He was instrumental in Akron’s 39-34 upset of Northwestern last September, snagging two interceptions for touchdowns en route to getting named the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week.

The 2018 Zips allowed 27.2 points per game, ranking No. 65 in Division I-A. Akron finished with Davis as a first-team All-MAC defensive back, and five second- and third-team All-MAC defenders, including linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III and defensive back Kyron Brown.

Overall, the Zips finished with a 4-8 record, with two of their wins coming against MAC foes. The school announced the firing of head coach Terry Bowden with two years left on his contract.

LOOKING FORWARD

Courtesy of Jeff Harwell


Things have not come easily for the Zips in 2019. Over their first six games, the team is averaging just 307.8 yards per game on offense and allowing 439.3 on defense.

In his redshirt junior season, Nelson has thrown for 1,265 yards and eight touchdowns. He is dealing with an arm injury sustained during a 37-29 loss to UMass. He has developed a rapport with Dustin Burkhart and Nate Stewart, who have amassed 711 total receiving yards.

Meanwhile, after losing eight defensive players from a season ago, the Zips have just four sacks on the year and are tied for last in Division I-A.

Kicker Jerry Fitschen is two for four on field goals and five for six on extra points.

Heading into the season, the Zips had six players named to the Athlon Sports MAC Football 2019 All-Conference Team, including wide receiver Andre Williams and offensive lineman Brandon Council.

Under Arth, the Zips are employing different schemes than in years’ past. On offense, Akron has switched from the spread to a pro-style offense. On defense, they have gone from a 4-3 to a 3-4. The 2019 season was expected to be a transition year for the Zips and it has proven to be just that.

BOTTOM LINE

The Bulls started off conference play against the two top-ranked teams in the MAC East, so they should be able to breathe a little against Akron. The Zips have struggled on both sides of the ball and are projected to finish toward the bottom of the conference. For Buffalo, it’s a good opportunity to come out of the bye week strong and take advantage of the Zips’ transition.

Sports desk can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com.